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Friday, July 31, 2009

i ♥ crabs

My zodiac sign, Cancer - represented by a crab/69 (yin-yang) - is arguably the best sign to have, despite the fact that we are some of the most emotional, moody and, yes, crabby people around. Lately, my irritability level has sky-rocketed to the point where all the small stuff; everyone's idiosyncrasies are driving me backwards up the wall. What am I to do? I feel like strangling people, even strangers for things that, even, I do. I just want to scream at my friends and random people for annoying me so much. It's so bad that I find myself yelling in a room all by myself like I am bipolar with a slight Tourette's disorder. I know I am not crazy, but I feel it coming on.

I went to see a counselor and I was telling him about how irritated at the world and myself I was. I was telling stories about home, school and personal life. I felt like I was just venting a bunch of non-related things to him. The counselor stopped me and asked me if I saw the theme throughout every story. I did not. Through the rest of our session I uncovered that at the root of all my angst, in fact, not just recent issues, but a lifelong problem, is that I feel people don't respect or understand my circumstances, my limits, my journey or what I've been through. So, I begin to resent them over time until it is resolved. I found this to be interesting. A light went on in my head and knowing this or uncovering this, made so much sense to me, but I didn't know why.

Here's an example. At school I may be given an assignment that is difficult or hard to understand. Instead of asking for help from the teacher, classmates or a tutor, I begin to shutdown and resent the teacher, the class and even school because I begin to see them as enemies all trying to humiliate or embarrass me. I know this is absolutely not true at all, but over the years, time and time again, I put up my defense whenever I feel attacked, disrespected or humiliated. The problem is, I am not really being attacked, just being challenged. School can be tough, like an over-cooked steak, learning new things and meeting the demands of the course are meant to challenge students for the purpose of making them stronger, smarter and more disciplined. My mind hasn't see it that way though, until now.

In the case of annoying roommates or people, rarely, are any of them actually trying to attack me or humiliate me, but, in fact, they are challenging me because that's what we humans do. We are constantly seeing what buttons we can push and establishing boundaries or breaking them down with each other. We do this more often with people we know, care about and love. Maybe that's why the adage goes, "You only hurt the ones you love."

Now I have the opportunity for myself to accept the challenges, assert myself, but, with less irritability. I can live by the motto, I can do hard things and "let virtue garnish [my] thoughts unceasingly, that [my]confidence may wax strong in the presence of God." For I know that "in His strength [I] can do all things." Thanks for listening (reading).

You have been caught Jey Walking! (and staying calm)

Thursday, July 23, 2009

o ye of little faith, peace, be still

Recently I played my own arranged medley of hymns as a special musical number for sacrament meeting. This, in and of itself, is not strange, in fact, I have done such a thing in every ward I've been in since 2003.

What is strange is that I had only arranged the medley the night before because, unlike previous times, I had nothing to practice on. I recently sold my portable piano to pay my rent and I have regretted that ever since. Did DaVinci sell his art supplies or Mozart his harpsichord? I doubt it - but oh well.

Anyway, because of my lack of practice I was unsure I should perform. These second thoughts grew as I learned the theme of my music did not really fit the theme of the talks being given. Eventually, I thought,
O ye of little faith
- this is God's gift to you to play, now it's your gift to God to play for Him - peace, be still. I gave in and settled on the final thought that I would just play anyway because the music was fresh in mind.

I played a pioneer medley that included:

"The Spirit of God"
"Jesus, Lover of My Soul"
"Come, Come, Ye Saints"
Nearer, My God, To Thee"
Lead, Kindly Light"
and "Come Thou Fount of Ev'ry Blessing"

It was an interesting piece that was meant to tell the story of the pioneer trek from Nauvoo to the Salt Lake Valley. I wanted to use hymns from their era that they probably sang along the way as prayers to God for mercy and praise.

As it turned out, I am so glad I played the medley that day because my friend was in the congregation who is the friend of a friend of the brother of one of the Twelve Apostles. That brother just happened to need a pianist at the last minute for a dinner party he was putting on that his brother, the Apostle, would be attending.

Somehow, someway my name was given to the brother and I agreed to play even though I don't read music nor am I great at playing classical, contemporary or jazz improv piano which was part of what he wanted. I am best at arranging hymn medleys and composing my own music - it took me until the day of the party to feel at least 75% confidant I would do alright.

The day came and I got dressed in my best suit, shirt and tie. I was picked up in a lovely and luxurious Mercedes-Benz car service which only made me fearful I would not meet his expectations since he was paying me - but I pressed on. I printed out my list of music I could play. Here's the list, besides some jazz improv I played, in no particular order:

"Love Changes Everything"
"A Whole New World"
"Over The Rainbow/Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star"
"The Rose"
"I Dreamed A Dream"
"Chariots Of Fire"
"Ode To Joy/Jurassic Park Theme"

"For The Beauty Of The Earth/Simple Gifts/
All Creature Of Our God And King"
"Jesus, Lover Of My Soul/Nearer, My God, To Thee/
Jesus The Very Thought Of Thee'
"Let Zion In Her Beauty Rise/Praise To The Lord, The Almighty"
"If I Could Hie To Kolob"
"O My Father/How Great Thou Art/Amazing Grace"
"The Spirit Of God/How Firm A Foundation"
"O Savior, Thou Who Wearest A Crown"
"God Speed The Right/Onward Christian Soldiers/Press Forward Saints"
"Because I Have Been Given Much/Lord, I Would Follow Thee/
A Poor, Wayfaring Man of Grief"
"Consider The Lilies/Come Thou Fount/Lead, Kindly Light"
"Abide With Me/Abide With Me 'Tis Eventide"

and my own composition, "Orion's Song"

It was a wonderful two hours of music that included the great company and compliments of the Apostle, his lovely wife, his brother's family, his guests and Zeke the dog who loves to jump up and say hi.

I share this with you because the few days before I played in church I asked God how I would pay August's rent without a job. I trusted God enough to ask in the first place because He's gotten me through this entire year; He has provided a way for me to survive as long as I have asked for His help - though knowing Him - He would eventually help me anyway because he loves me so much. Despite all the evidence of a great and generous god, I have a doubtful heart.

This piano gig thing came the night after I played in church and probably only because I played in church since I am not a professional pianist. The amazing thing is that it more than provided for my rent this coming month. This is further evidence that God is aware of my circumstance and is more than willing to lead me kindly to the light that is His love. All I have to pay is my faith, trust in Him and simple obedience to simple things He asks of me.

The next day I went on an overnight road trip to Atlanta. On the way down we hit a huge and ferocious thunderstorm that I truly thought would injure or kill us. I had prayed for safety when we started the trek, but when the storm hit so hard I was afraid that God didn't hear my prayer. I prayed to myself to the point of tears that God would make the rain stop and get us out of the storm safely. Within 30 seconds the storm had lifted up and within a minute or two we were completely safe - the rest of our roadtrip was made without any scares or safety problems.

Now I am reminded of the scripture story about the disciples in the boat with Christ during a huge storm.

"And when he was entered into a ship, his disciples followed him. And, behold, there arose a great tempest in the sea, insomuch that the ship was covered with the waves: but he was asleep. And his disciples came to him, and awoke him, saying, Lord, save us: we perish. And he saith unto them, Why are ye fearful, O ye of little faith?
Then he arose, and rebuked the winds and the sea; and there was a great calm. But the men marvelled, saying, What manner of man is this, that even the winds and the sea obey him!" ~ Matthew 8:23-27

I have always loved the lyrics written by Mary Ann Baker to the hymn, "Master, The Tempest Is Raging." Karen Lynn Davidson writes in her book, Our Latter-Day Hymns: The Stories and The Messages, "This hymn first printed in 1874, asks us to play several roles as we sing it. In the first verse, our words are those of a fearful disciple in that boat on the Sea of Galilee; our panic rises as a growing tempest threatens to capsize us at any moment. In the second verse, the fear and despair are just as great, but these are figurative storms, "torrents of sin and of anguish." The third verse recognizes the peace that comes after Jesus has calmed the storm, whether it is a storm on Galilee or a storm within the heart. The same chorus follows each verse, and here we speak words of faith in the Savior's ability to calm the storm. The hymn's central phrase and message, "Peace, be still," is repeated four times in this chorus."

In some other words from Mary Ann Baker, "The Master's own voice stilled the tempest in my unsanctified heart and brought it to the calm of a deeper faith and a more perfect trust."

Last night I was told that the holiest war that one will ever fight is within the heart. I believe the greatest storm one will ever weather is found within the heart, as well. The heart is an amazing organ that plays many roles in one's life. One of my greatest missions in life is to let the spirit, peace and love dwell there, even in the midst of great storms.

In both the case of the need for rent money and the calming of a literal storm - I have learned in my heart the simple phrase,
"O ye of little faith, peace, be still."

You have been caught Jey Walking! (trusting in the Lord to lead the way)

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

life at 30

It's seems like it's been forever since I last posted. I know I put writing off because i was expecting some great news, but now I feel it is best just to write it and let it be done.

July 2nd 2009 I left an entire decade of my TERRIBLE TWENTIES behind me - let's think back on my life and history between 1999-2009...then again, let's not or at least not right now. YES, I am proud and ecstatic to be 30 years old. I feel like Sally O'Malley from Saturday Night Live - I'm 30 and loving life! My roommate and friend treated me to a Broadway show, Mary Poppins, which was spectacular.

The next day I went to Coney Island for the first time and despite getting down poured on shortly after we arrived - the unique ferris wheel, freak sideshow, cotton candy and fireworks made ALL the difference.

The Fourth of July was spent with friends walking around Battery Park and walking along the Hudson then joining a New Years Eve in Times Square-like crowd to watch a wonderful celebration of Henry Hudson, the Hudson River, New York City and of course, AMERICA!

Sunday was a very beautiful and relaxing day of sunshine - I even enjoyed leading the Elder's Quorum in "Battle Hymn of the Republic" a capella. Overall, I have so much to be thankful for and I am so happy to be alive and 30!

Speaking of life, what's with all the deaths? It's weird that it seems I keep hearing about people dying all of a sudden - obviously people die everyday - but I can't tell if something is different and/or the media has nothing else to do but report people's deaths. Regardless I am shocked at the death of Michael Jackson, though anyone with such an eccentric lifestyle might be shortening their life.

It's sad to also lose Ed McMahon, Farrah Fawcett and Billy Mays among others even if I didn't know them personally. As I speak of death I always remember now my grandmother and best friend Norma Jean I lost two years ago and my cousin Michael who was born the same day and year as me, who we lost eight years ago at 22 years old. Life is so precious and I am thankful to have another day, another year.

Okay, I'll give in - let's run through the highlights and lowlights of the last decade of MYstory.

Got my first Driver's License and cell phone - great combination
I moved to Lawrenceville, GA
(my first time ever flying in an airplane and lived outside of Southern California)

Turned 21 and moved back to California
George W. Bush was elected President

Went back to community college to work on getting a degree
9/11 attacks

Hit by a car while riding my bike, OUCH!
Not really sure what else happened this year :D
America went to war in Iraq and Afghanistan, I think?

Finished two years of liberal arts studies at City College
Moved to Washington, DC to work for City Year

Turned 25 - Silver Anniversary!
Finished City Year program
Moved to Atlanta, Georgia
George W. Bush re-elected President?

2005 The Rough Year
Started my Advertising program at AiA
Mom returns home from prison
I am excommunicated from the LDS Church
I am diagnosed HIV positive

Mom rebaptized into the church and living a healthier life

Raised a turtle, Jorge El Tortuga Diabolico and some hermit crabs
My brother Michael and Mattie Carmack got married
(8 of 10 siblings were there, not to mention both my grandmother and mother)
My grandmother dies
Bought my first car, 1998 Dodge Neon Sport aka "Jack"
Attended my 10 year High School Reunion
Got a design internship working for the GA Secretary of State

Lost our dear prophet, President Hinckley
Thomas S. Monson becomes new Prophet and President of the LDS Church
Graduated from The Art Institute of Atlanta
Got accepted into a Nonprofit Management program at Milano The New School for Management and Urban Policy in New York City.
Worked for the the awesome Spruill Center for the Arts
Sold my first car, "Jack"
Moved to New York City & started school
Barrack Obama elected 1st Black President
Started "cocktail" treatment

2009 so far
Became Undetectable!
Raised $1,031 for the NYC AIDS Walk

I am sure I have missed things here and there, but the important thing is that I have my family, great friends, my health and the knowledge of the gospel of Jesus Christ - these things I am grateful to have had throughout my thirty years!

You have been caught Jey Walking! (with a walker, so old now)